Last updated 10:17 14/09/2013
Fears that dogs are being targeted with poison in Palmerston North appear to have been confirmed, with poison-laced meat discovered in a popular off-lead park in the city.
Yesterday, the Manawatu Standard reported that a dog had to be euthanised after eating zinc phosphide, commonly used to kill rats and possums, near the Bridle Track, a popular dog-walking spot along the Manawatu River.
Horizons Regional Council, Palmerston North City Council and the Animal Health Board all had no idea how the poison got there.
The organiser of a dog owners' social group has now revealed that meat laced with poison was recently found in Waitoetoe Park, another popular dog-walking spot near the river.
Simon Coom, who runs the popular Dogday Sunday programme, said a veterinarian friend of his from Massey University had recently had some meat found in Waitoetoe Park handed into the clinic. Analysis found that the meat had been laced with poison.
Mr Coom said he was concerned about poison being discovered in off-lead areas, and had been warning people via Facebook about where it had been found.
He said the discoveries appeared sinister, forcing the move of this weekend's Dogday Sunday from Waitoetoe Park to Linklater Reserve .
"Someone must be putting it there. You don't just find poisoned meat in a park."
Palmerston North SPCA manager Danny Auger said people laying poison in public areas without permission was not a common occurrence.
"I have not heard of this kind of thing . . . happening before."
People would sometimes put out poisons to kill birds, which was perfectly legal, but putting poisoned meat in a park was "irresponsible".
"Let's say they're leaving it around for possums and it's not intended for dogs, they're just not thinking straight.
"But, of course, that is the totally innocent view of it."
Mr Auger said things could go terribly wrong if the poisoned meat fell into the wrong hands.
"In a public area, it is not just animals that could pick it up.
"If you have not got your eyes on your kids for two seconds, who knows what they will pick up?"
While he had never heard of people laying poison in public places for dogs, Mr Auger said disputes over barking pets were common and one could have escalated to the deliberate targeting of dogs in a particular area.
If someone had issues with a neighbour's dog, they should simply talk to the neighbour about it, he said.
If someone was laying poison with the aim of killing dogs they could be charged under the Animal Welfare Act for ill-treatment of animals. The maximum penalty is five years' imprisonment and a $100,000 fine.
If you find poison in Palmerston North parks or near the river, call the Palmerston North City Council on 06 356 8199, or the Palmerston North SPCA on 06 357 2516.
If your dog exhibits the following behaviour, it may have been poisoned.
■ Constant panting
■ Lethargic walking or walking close to the ground
If you suspect your dog has been poisoned, take it to a vet immediately. Massey University's vet hospital has an emergency centre that is open 24 hours and can be contacted on 0800 738 363.
- Manawatu Standard